For me, writing scholastic essays was never so difficult. If I could come up with one decent idea about the assigned subject, I could easily crank out a few pages and turn it in for a decent grade. The bane of my existence was when I had to cite things that other people wrote to support my claims. This meant spending hours searching Google Scholar for volume after volume of dry, indecipherable literary criticism, finding quotes that only half support my intended thesis. It was generally an unpleasant use of time. But if all critical analyses had been like PBS Idea Channel, I think I would’ve had a much more pleasant experience.
Idea Channel, in its essence, is the scholarly essay for the Internet age, a place where theories on social networks and viral sensations are expounded using equal servings of meme culture and classical philosophy. Check out their most recent video, which pieces together a postmodern hypothesis about Facebook by referencing John Locke, modern social theory, the ukulele boy, and lots of image macros.
The channel posted its first video six months ago, and it’s really starting to gain traction around the web. A recent video on Homestuck and Ulysses has reached 475 thousand views, and the channel now has over 56 thousand subscribers.
There are a score of other clever philosophies being explored on Idea Channel, each one sounding more interesting than the one before: there’s Super Mario as surrealist art, dubstep as avant-garde musical genius, and, my personal favorite, Minecraft as a metaphor for the post-scarcity economy. Each monologue by host Mike Rugnetta is carefully crafted to be insightful, funny, and open to viewer input.
Rugnetta made a name for himself on the netas the creator of Memefactory, so it’s no surprise to see him pulling viral tricks out of his hat to add appeal to his “scholarly essay.” The Idea Channel is exciting because it’s adding color to a form that was previously colorless, but even beyond that, it is opening up the field of “Internet Studies” and hopefully turning the heads of a few academics. In a few years, I hope to go back to school so that I can earn my masters in Lolcats. Until then, I’m happy to learn why Nic Cage is a symbol of YOLO and Daoism.